Candover sells Thule to Nordic Capital

By Martin Arnold in London Thule, the Swedish maker of car roof boxes, snow chains and trailers, was sold yesterday by Candover – June 1, 2007. Nordic Capital, one of north Europe’s leading regional private equity funds, swooped with an unsolicited bid for Thule as Candover was preparing it for an initial public offering. Thule was also being prepared for an IPO in December 2004 when Candover fought off competition from several private equity rivals to buy it for €465m. Yesterday’s deal, generating a 2.5-times return on Candover’s equity investment, emphasises the glowing health of the European market for mid-sized growth buy-outs. Investments in European buy-outs have been the best performing asset class for private equity investors, above North American buyouts, venture capital, funds-of-funds and Asia-Pacific buy-outs, according to a survey published yesterday by Coller Capital. John Arney, managing director of Candover, said: “Thule would have been an excellent candidate for an IPO and I’m sure Nordic Capital will look at this for its exit route. There is still a lot of growth potential.” After spending about €400m on seven acquisitions at Thule, funded by additional equity investments, debt and cash flow, Mr Arney said he decided it was “a good time to realise our investment”. The €500m returned from the Thule sale to Candover investors meant the London-listed firm had paid back the €2.7bn invested in its 2001 fund. That fund still has several portfolio companies that are due to be sold or floated in the near future, including Springer Science and Business Media, the academic publisher, and Gala Coral, the bookmaker and bingo and casino operator. Goldman Sachs advised Candover. Castlegreen Partners advised Nordic Capital.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007

Nordic Capital – Press release, May 31, 2007. Nordic Capital acquires Thule the world leader within Sports Utility Transportation. Nordic Capital Fund VI has signed an agreement to acquire the Thule Group from Candover. Thule is the world leader in sports utility transportation solutions with current pro forma revenues of SEK 6.6 billion (EUR 721 million) including recent acquisitions. Thule is headquartered in Malmö, Sweden and has approx 4,000 employees at over 30 production and sales locations on all major car markets in North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. The company has leading positions in all business segments that it operates in. The product portfolio comprises load carriers for cars such as rooftop boxes, roof rails and bike carriers. Additionally, Thule offers snow chains, trailers, towing systems as well as accessories for motor homes and caravans. Thule has been pursuing a buy and build strategy during the past four years resulting in annual double digit sales and earnings growth. Thule has recently acquired US based Case Logic Inc. the Group’s ninth acquisition since 2004. Case Logic offers organization solutions on a global level. The acquisition will be used as platform for Thule to expand further into adjacent product segments offering accessory solutions for active consumers around the world wanting to transport their equipment safely, easily and in style. Ulf Rosberg, Partner, Nordic Capital: “Nordic Capital has followed Thule for many years. We are attracted to Thule’s leading market positions, strong brands and proven management team, with whom we will work closely together. There is strong underlying market growth in this sector driven by an increase in outdoor and leisure activities. Thule is an excellent platform both for future addon acquisitions and for organic growth.” Anders Pettersson, President & CEO, Thule: “We welcome Nordic Capital as the new owner of Thule. Nordic Capital has followed us very closely during the past four years and mutual trust has been established. Strategically, we will continue with our buy and build strategy with the aim of creating a one billion Euro company by 2009.” Thule’s management will reinvest in the new company and continue to be a significant owner. The parties have agreed not to disclose the transaction value. The completion of the acquisition is subject to approval by the relevant authorities.